Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Speakers at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s Annual Conference in Denver, March 27-28, identified the opportunities in the challenges faced by those in animal agriculture and stressed the importance of feeding the world despite the challenges ahead.
“We can, and will, feed the world,” stated economist Terry Barr, PhD, senior director of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “The question is what the level of relative prices for land, water and food will be required to achieve that goal in a sustainable manner and what will be the inherent volatility that will surround those relative prices.
“That will tell us about the likely structure of the global and regional markets that will evolve. It will also indicate the size of the required balance sheet, the amount of liquidity, the risk management tools and the human capital that will be needed to be competitive.”
With experts predicting the human population to jump by about 3 billion people during the next 40 years, Barr said world meat production will need to increase by 73% and grain production must increase by 49% to meet demand by the year 2050.
Among Barr’s list of constraints that could impact this emerging demand were land availability, water supply, technology and efficiency, climate variability, energy availability and cost, and government domestic and trade policy. He urged agricultural nations to invest heavily in research and development toward increased productivity to offset constraints.
Colorado State University President Tony Frank, DVM, PhD, agreed with Barr, pointing out that dwindling agricultural land and resources call for continued, heavy-hitting research and development. Frank advised those in animal agriculture to look at the consumer side and understand consumer concerns and perceptions that can lead to regulatory pressures and oversight.
Acknowledging that consumers “are less literate about where food is coming from,” Frank asked producers in animal agriculture to zero in on the common ground shared by animal agriculture, consumers and regulators. Three items on his “common ground” list included producing/eating a safe product, being environmentally conscious and caring about animal welfare and well-being. Frank appealed to animal agriculturalists to be proactive, to work with elected officials rather than to wait for regulations and react to them and to talk and interact with consumers rather than “talk past them.” Frank stressed that universities should get involved by providing neutral, science-based solutions. He said the question every university should be asking is “What more can we be doing?”